NASA and colleagues around the world conducted “tabletop” exercises last month to determine the time it will take for scientists to understand and find ways to prevent a catastrophic collision of an approaching asteroid with Earth. The simulations were hypothetical and were intended to give scientists time to prepare for situations like these should they arise. They set a scenario: A mysterious asteroid is approaching Earth from a distance of approximately 35 million miles (56.3 million kilometers) and is expected to hit the planet in six months. Scientists sat down for a week starting April 26 to plan ways to stop or reverse a hypothetical asteroid called 2021 PDC.
Participants were provided with information about the asteroid every day, which corresponded to a month in the exercise schedule. It was found that the asteroid was 35 to 700 meters in size. With each passing hour, scientists began to accumulate information.
Finally, on the second daythey confirmed that the asteroid would fall in six months across a vast region that includes Europe and North Africa. By the end of the week, they had announced with some degree of certainty that the asteroid would collide between Germany and the Czech Republic.
Later, scientists came to the conclusion that there is currently no technology that would prevent a huge asteroid from destroying the world. They added that it would take more than six months for the asteroid to deflect.
Scientists said in statement that, faced with a hypothetical scenario in real life, “we will not be able to launch a spacecraft in such a short time with the current capabilities.”
They also stated that using a nuclear explosive device to destroy an asteroid could reduce the risk of damage even in the absence of a clear understanding of the asteroid’s properties. However, the ability of typical nuclear explosive devices to reliably destroy near-Earth objects may be insufficient for larger asteroids.
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